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Published:July 22nd, 2008 09:59 EST
Obama continues Middle East campaign

Obama continues Middle East campaign

By SOP newswire

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama visited Iraq`s Anbar province Tuesday for meetings with Sunni tribal leaders who helped turned the tide against al Qaeda insurgents in the province.

Obama was meeting with leaders of the Awakening Council, who aligned with U.S. forces to combat Islamic extremists and successfully brought stability to the province.

His visit to Anbar province comes a day after a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad. The Illinois senator released a statement late Monday saying Iraqis want an "aspirational timeline" for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Senator Obama also said Prime Minister Maliki stated his hope that "U.S. combat forces could be out of Iraq in 2010."

Obama made the comments in a joint statement with Republican Senator Chuck Hagel and Democratic Senator Jack Reed, who are accompanying him on the fact-finding mission

The senators acknowledged violence in Iraq is down significantly, but said political and economic development continues to lag.

Republican U.S. presidential candidate John McCain said Monday that Obama was wrong to oppose the U.S. troop surge in Iraq that began last year. Senator McCain said the U.S. is winning the war in Iraq and more troops will be able to come home as conditions improve.

After his talks in Anbar province, Obama is visiting Jordan before traveling to Israel and the West Bank.

During his stay in Israel, he will visit the southern Israeli border town of Sderot, which has become the frequent target of rocket attacks by Palestinian militants. He will also meet with leaders on both sides, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.